Over ten years ago, I attached an amendment to a spending bill to protect the conscientious rights of those who choose not to offer, perform, or assist in performing abortions. The effort was essential to ensure that health organizations across the country were not forced to violate their beliefs.
Every year since, Congress has renewed the Weldon Amendment, as it is known. But on June 21, the Department of Health and Human Services violated that measure by refusing to block federal funding for California because of its mandate that all state health insurance plans cover procedures for ‘abortion. This blatant disregard for the rule of law is unacceptable.
This week the House is about to vote on a bill to prevent the Obama administration from violating my amendment. Congress must pass this legislation. It is vital to protect the rights of conscience of those who oppose abortion procedures.
In 2005, the National Abortions Rights Action League launched a project to make abortion services mandatory in all hospitals in the state of Maryland. It bothered me. As a doctor, I had learned over the years that there are many medical students, doctors, and nurses who didn’t want to know more about or get involved with abortions. Some were pro-life advocates whose objections were rooted in their faith. But many were not; they just didn’t want to be involved in a procedure that didn’t heal, but killed. The Weldon Amendment was designed to protect medical workers acting out of conscience and personal preferences, just as if they had a religious basis for their objection.
Two years ago, however, California required all state insurance plans to cover abortion, a direct violation of my amendment. California should have withdrawn its mandate at the risk of losing significant sums of federal health care funding. For two years, however, the state refused to repeal the law, leaving the Obama administration with only one choice: withdraw the funding.
Therefore, I was shocked on June 21 when HHS, after spending over 18 months studying the matter, said California was not in violation. In arriving at this conclusion, HHS misinterpreted the wording of my amendment and my statements.
When I drafted my amendment I foresaw that a day might come when the wrong governor or the wrong president would work with abortion advocacy groups to impose abortion ethics on those who reject or prefer it. do not get involved. This is why I have deliberately used the term “health care entity” as opposed to “providers” or “physicians”. I further made this clear in my statement on the ground when I said it was “intended to protect the decisions of doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals, medical centers and even insurance providers.” illness of being forced by the government to provide, refer or pay for abortions. “
Last Friday, Representative Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) Convened a forum on Capitol Hill with a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss this issue. They unanimously admitted that the administration had violated the law. In addition to legal experts who argued the administration was wrong on the facts, pro-life nurses described their experiences of being forced into late abortion procedures or risking losing their jobs. Pastors of anti-abortion churches in California have explained their fears of having to purchase health insurance for church workers that covered abortion procedures.
The language of the Weldon Amendment is simply a continuation of Hyde’s policy, which prohibits the use of federal funding for abortion. As I explained in my statement, “The right of conscience is fundamental to our American freedoms. We must ensure this freedom by protecting all health care providers from having to perform, refer or pay for elective abortions. “
The administration argues that the provision does not extend to health insurance companies that have no moral objection to the practice of abortions, but rather oppose on behalf of their religious clients. In other words, they take the reference to the protection of conscience and interpret it as a religious or moral test for the health care entity.
This is far from being the truth. There is no reasonable way to read my statement as a religious or moral test. Just as the Hyde Amendment stopped all federal funding for elective abortion, my Amendment similarly stops any discrimination against entities that do not provide, pay, provide coverage, or recommend abortion. . The administration’s interpretation of the Weldon Amendment clearly disregards the intent and language of the law.
It is a pivotal moment for those who support religious freedom and the rights of conscience for all individuals. Congress must pass legislation to protect the rights of those who, for reasons of personal preference or religious belief, choose not to get involved in providing abortions. It is time to codify my amendment and ensure that all health care providers have the right to act if any state or government insists that they participate in any way in the practice of abortion.
The House is ready to vote on a Bill from Representatives John Fleming (R-La.) And Diane Black (R-Tenn.) That will achieve this goal. The Senate must also take on this cause.
When a government violates the conscience rights of its law-abiding citizens, it is entering very dangerous territory. Some might even call it tyranny. Congress must act now before the summer recess to ensure that no health entity is forced to violate its beliefs. Every medical worker should have the right to choose protected by our legal system.
David Weldon was a member of the 15th Congressional District of Florida House of Representatives from 1995 to 2009.